Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Scooter modifications

I still haven't gotten my keys back from their cloning adventure in Maine, so I can't actually ride my Vespa in spite of spectacular weather this Easter weekend.

Instead of riding, I managed to free up some time to start working on the safety and convenience modifications I had planned.

Without an ignition key, there's not much I can do to test the new electrical circuits, but, what the heck, life well-lived is an adventure.

In doing these modifications I am following the paths laid out by talented scooter owners and mechanical wizards before me. The project includes a Stebel Nautilus air horn to replace the stock Vespa horn; a 12 volt power outlet in the glove compartment; and a turn signal buzzer to remind me that the blinking rider has left the blinking blinkers on, long after the turn is a distant memory.

I don't need to go into any great detail on these projects since there are extraordinarily helpful instructions and photos on the Modern Vespa forum (www.modernvespa.com), and I'd just be dully repeating what other more talented scooterists have already documented way better than I possibly could.

I’ll just add bits and pieces of my experience that contribute real value for the next person who takes on these improvements.

I won’t keep you in suspense, I’ll cut right to the chase, kind of.

First off, let me quote the unknown wise person who observed that experience is what you get when you were expecting something else.

It turns out that:
  • when you are working on your Vespa in a warm, neon lit garage bay; and
  • and when you are congratulating yourself that you removed the horn cover and the interior leg shield cowl and glove box without breaking anything;
  • and when you are fiddling to convince yourself that your Radio Shack 12 volt power outlet will really fit behind the glove box, which is basically a useless activity since the pictures on Modern Vespa already offer conclusive evidence that the fit is just fine;
well, then and only then will the power outlet slip out of your clumsy fingers.

Now here’s the insight that I wasn’t able to get from Modern Vespa: the Vespa is fiendishly, cleverly designed so that anything you drop inside the leg shield is immediately and efficiently directed along the nice curvy shield and straight under the floor board. The opening to the leg shield is perfectly designed to capture anything you drop, and, unless you are a titan and are able to hold the scooter upside down over your head and shake it just so, the only way to retrieve whatever it is you drop is to remove the floorboard.

Since I was going to have to do that anyway in order to install new wiring from the battery, it was no big deal.

So I removed the floorboard; retrieved the power outlet; installed the new positive and negative leads from the battery as well as the new fuse holder; routed the new wires to the leg shield area; re-installed the floorboard; and congratulated myself again: nothing broken, nothing wobbly, no leftover parts!!

So, fresh from this victory, I grabbed the Stebel Nautilus air horn and started clumsily convincing myself that it would fit in the leg shield, roughly behind the horn cover, basically where it ought logically to go. Again, a totally useless activity, see above.

That’s when the little screw and bolt that Stebel thoughtfully provides with the horn worked itself loose as I fiddled, fell off, and, you guessed it, rattled off down inside the floorboard.

Tonight the plan is to once more remove the floor board; retrieve the bolt; re-install the floor board; stuff rags in the openings to save me from more experience with the floorboard; and complete the wiring.

I won’t take the chance of closing up the leg shield until I get my keys back from www.allmotorcyclekeys.com so that I can test the modifications. I know what some of you are thinking... DON'T TEST THE STEBEL HORN IN THE GARAGE WITH THE DOOR CLOSED!

Finally, just so you don’t think I’m completely inept, once I finished Dremelling the 1” hole I cut in the glove box, the power outlet snapped securely in, and looks for all the world like it was put there at the factory by the Piaggio folks in Pontadera, Italy.

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The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.